Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A few questions for Governor Palin

It's hard to believe that it's been a full month since the historic election. Well, depends on how you count a month, but today is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in December.

I was more of a political junkie in my youth, but I haven't sworn off the habit. Only in the last few days was I attempting to handicap the electoral college. TNG was a huge Obama fan, asking every adult in sight whether they would be voting for him. On the flip side, the other ticket had Miss Amanda quite charged up -- the idea of a Canino-American being one heartbeat from the presidency was too much to resist (though she has declared she will nip any groomer who attempts to apply lipstick to her!). Her disappointment that night was quickly salved by Obama's first major policy declaration in his celebratory speech. Alas, her closest kin have not been mentioned as in the running for the White House staff position.

Speaking of Governor Palin, it seems she will not be fading from the limelight. No, indeed it looks like her personal Iditarod will be going for the nomination in 2012. Alaska's chief executive made a number of comments during the campaign which induced consternation in the scientific community. Granted, the fruit fly remark was specifically about research on a totally different bug than Drosophila in a completely agriculturally-targeted setting, but it didn't endear her to the fans of Morgan & Bridges. Given she has four years to prepare, it wouldn't hurt to start now. And, in the spirit of reuse, should she not run it would seem the majority of these queries would apply to the majority of other Republicans who went for the high office this year.

1) You have publically taken stands that some views held by a minority (or less) of the scientific community should be accepted and used as the basis for policy decisions (e.g. the existance and/or cause of global warming trends) and/or taught in public schools as viable alternatives to the majority view (e.g. creationism). How do you choose which 'maverick' scientific theories have merit and which do not?

2) Which of the following maverick theories, relevant to major issues in this country today, should be taught in public schools or used to guide policy:

2.1) Healthcare (research priorities, Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement policy)

2.1.1) Childhood vaccines cause autism

2.1.2) AIDS can be treated more effectively with vitamin combinations than antiretrovirals

2.1.3) AIDS is caused by lifestyle factors and not the virus HIV

2.1.4) High cholesterol levels do not cause heart disease; cholesterol lowering using drugs risks cancer & depression

2.2) Physical sciences

2.2.1) Petroleum is not a limited supply of fossil remains of ancient lifeforms but rather is constantly created by processes deep in the earth (clearly an area where Ms. Palin has declared as in her sphere of expertise)

2.2.2) Manned space travel through the van Allen belts is guaranteed to be lethal; funding an attempt to land on the moon should be cancelled.

2.2.3) Einstein's Theory of Relativity is clearly wrong, as the concept of time dilation is so opposed to normal experience as to be laughable.

3) Should the U.S. government ever fund research outside its borders? Under what conditions should such operations be funded, if ever?

4) To what degree should non-expert politicians alter the research funding priorities set by experts in the field?

5) What, if any, useful science has come from studying fruit flies? Should the U.S. fund any further research? What other organisms do you also feel are not worth researching?

This is just a draft; readers are invited to submit further questions via the comments